All-rounder Shoaib Malik says Pakistan have beaten India at Kolkata and there is no reason why a repeat can’t take place on Saturday night
Kolkata: When the India-Pakistan match was moved under duress from Dharamsala to Kolkata, two contrasting sets of head-to-head statistics came to the fore.
Pakistan's Shoaib Malik takes part in a training session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday. Pic/ PTI, AFP
Pakistan have have never beaten India in ICC tournaments. The last time the two sides met was at the (50-50) 2015 World Cup Down Under.
But they have beaten their arch-rivals in all four limited-overs matches at the Eden Gardens. "Yes, its there somewhere at the back of the mind, and you draw from it. The body language will be good (because of it) and that's a plus point," said skipper Shahid Afridi on the Eden record as Pakistan seek inspiration for Saturday's showdown at this venue.
He would rather not discuss the other piece of stats. "That brings in negativity, we would like to keep it away," he smiled. "India is playing very good cricket," he conceded, but also reminded of the fact that "we gave them a tough time chasing 85 (at the 2016 Asia Cup T20 league match)".
While Sarfraz Ahmed, a crucial cog in the Pakistan's batting unit, that hasn't quite fired in recent times, stressed on the need for youngsters to start contributing.
Afridi believes its seniors like him, who must come to the party on Saturday. "In a big match like this, it's the senior players, who have to take the pressure, be it me, Shoaib Malik or Mohammad Hafeez," he said.
With the disappointments of the Asia Cup T20 lingering as a shadow of doubt, and other recent records hardly inspiring confidence, Pakistan are in search of a spark.
"Maybe it's good that we are the underdogs," reasons Afridi.While, Malik chose to point at the miracles from the past.
"Let's talk about the 1992 World Cup. People weren't talking much then but we went and won it. Same thing happened in the 2007 World T20, though we did lose to India in the final. In 2009, we weren't favourites but we won it," Malik reminded. "The same can happen in this World Cup too."
The last time the two teams clashed here, in an ODI in 2013, India were done in by a couple of swinging left-armers. Mohammad Irfan being one of them is back in the squad.
'Amir is the best'
"For me (Mohammad) Amir is the best; he's among the top international bowlers," said Afridi, when asked to respond to Rohit Sharma's views that the left-arm pacer, who shook up India at the Asia Cup T20, was over-rated.
He signed off on the point that with Amir joining the likes of Irfan, Mohammad Sami and Wahab Riaz "we have a great fast bowling line-up".
So, is it essentially a battle between Pakistan's bowling versus India's batting, someone asked.
"It's been that for the past 60 years," quipped Afridi.
Conceding that lack of cricket, particularly in the shortest format, "could be one of the reasons" for Pakistan's recent lack of form, Malik brushed aside the disappointments of the Asia Cup T20 as being a case of "not executing our plans".
"This is a great opportunity for us to do well and take Pakistan where the rest of the world is. The India match is a chance for someone to do well and become a superstar (overnight)," he said.
"When I'm playing against India I take it as any other match. When you think too much about the occasion, you lose focus on the match.
"We hope we'll break the jinx here," said wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz, who revealed that he "tries to learn a lot from India skipper MS Dhoni".
Next Saturday, the 28-year-old will want to outdo his idol.